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09 January 2012 @ 09:45 pm
Fic: Endurance Past the Point (5 of 19)  
Summary, notes, and warnings are located in the Table of Contents.



Part 5

The doctor may have said it would be the better part of a day until Carter would wake up, but her team was not going to run the risk of letting her wake alone.  From the moment they left the briefing room, at least one of them was sitting at her bedside.  Daniel managed to get Jack to agree to get some sleep sometime late in the night, arguing that he would want to be awake later that day when she awoke.  

After the designated 12 hours, Fraiser withdrew the sedative from her medications.  She nodded to Jack who was sitting vigil at this point.  “Without the sedative, I expect her to wake sometime in the next few hours.”  Both understood her unspoken, if everything goes right.

Daniel and Teal’c both came by over the next two hours, trying to entice him away for lunch, but he wouldn’t budge.  She would be waking up any minute now and he was going to be there.  It had been four hours now, and he could tell Fraiser was starting to worry.  But he knew his major.  She would come out of this; maybe she just needed a little extra time.

His willpower and short nap in the middle of night could only carry him so far, and he found himself nodding off in the chair.  He jerked awake suddenly when he thought he heard his name.  Looking around, he saw that the infirmary was empty.  Carter’s eyes were still firmly closed.  Just as he began to think it had just come from a dream, she twitched in the bed and quietly said, “Jack.”  Her voice was dry and hoarse and so plaintive it hurt him on a nearly physical level to hear it.

She could feel the dream slipping away from her, despite her best efforts to hold on to it.  She didn’t want to come back to the cold, hard cell that was her reality.  But try as she might, she felt sleep withdrawing its comforting envelope.  Physical awareness started to set in.  Trying to make as little noise as possible, she started inventorying her condition.

There was pain, all over, so she knew that he hadn’t put her in the sarcophagus yet.  Trying to move as little as possible yet find a more comfortable position then alerted her to the fact that whatever she was laying on was much softer than the stone floor of her cell, and warmer.  Finally, she heard a repetitive beeping.  It sounded so familiar to her; she felt like there was some significance to it, if only she could remember what it was.

Obviously, she had been moved.  To where and for what purpose, she couldn’t hazard a guess.  She needed more information.  That meant she would have to open her eyes and look.  This was always the part she hated; coming to, not knowing if he was there or not.  She prayed every time that she would be alone.  More often than not, her prayers went unanswered and she would open her eyes to find him focused on her with a lascivious impatience.

Reluctantly, slowly, she cracked her eyes open.  And the face that greeted her was the face she had been dreaming of, soft with concern and compassion.  She smiled; the dream wasn’t over yet.

Jack saw the dreamy smile cross her face when she saw him and her hand reaching out slowly to rest on his cheek.  “Carter,” he managed to choke out but couldn’t follow it up with anything.  He’d had so many things he wanted to say to her, so many ways he’d imagined welcoming her home, but now with those blue eyes looking up at him, he couldn’t say anything.  Not breaking eye contact, he reached for the button to call Fraiser.

Her smile faltered.  She looked around the room, trying to move her head as slowly as possible.  She swallowed roughly and then refocused on him.  “Are you real?” she whispered.  

His hand covered hers where it lay on his cheek.  “Yeah, this is all real, Carter.  We came and got you.”

Janet came in.  Jack quickly but carefully moved Sam’s hand from his face and laid it on the bed.  

“You needed something, Colonel?”  When she saw Sam awake, an enormous sense of relief flooded through her.  She hurried closer, examining the readouts on the monitor as she did so.  “It’s nice to have you back with us, Sam.  How are you feeling?”

Sam thought about trying to downplay the pain, but was honestly too tired.  “I hurt, Janet.  And I’m really thirsty.”  After all that time of not using her voice, every word she spoke felt like it was tearing through the dry tissues.

Janet nods.  “Colonel, maybe you could go down to the commissary and get some chipped ice?”

“Sure, doc.”  He didn’t point out that he knew the infirmary freezer had a supply of ice chips for situation such as this.  He figured it was Fraiser’s way of asking him nicely to get out.  He gave Sam a gentle pat on the hand.  “I’ll be back in a bit, okay?”

She tried to smile up at him but it was hard.  She didn’t want him to go.  It was silly and irrational but she already felt less safe with him standing only a foot farther from her bed.  He smiled reassuringly at her and walked out.  

She turned her head to look at Janet.  “Can I get something for the pain?” she whispered.  

Her friend shook her head regretfully.  “I can’t give you any narcotics.  Your heart is very weak right now and I don’t want to take any chances.  We’re going to have to tough it out.  I’ll get you some icepacks when I’m done here.”

Sam groaned inwardly and found herself wishing for the sarcophagus.  They finally get around to rescuing her and they couldn’t wait a few hours until after he’d killed and revived her?  Janet noted the flash of anger crossing her face.  She’d hoped the withdrawal symptoms might be held off a bit longer, but she was willing to bet that was what she was seeing.  She quickly examined the dressings on the surgical incisions and checked to make sure that the wrappings on Sam’s ribs were still secure.

“Okay, you’re looking good, Sam.  I’m going to go get those icepacks.”


~SG1~


Jack took his time heading down to the commissary.  He didn’t know how long Janet wanted, but he needed some time to process recent developments as well.  That look in her eyes before she asked if he was real had really thrown him for a loop.  He was used to his team coming to in the infirmary and having him be the first thing they saw.  In fact, it was a point of pride.  But usually what he saw when they awoke would be gratitude, sheepishness, or even plain old confusion.  If he had to put a name on what Sam was feeling when she saw him, he would have said love.

He wandered into the commissary making his way to the drinks station.  It wasn’t that he didn’t know she had feelings for him, or vice versa.  It was just that they had gotten really good at not letting it show, even to each other.  To see that in her eyes, when he had spent the last month fearing that he would never have the chance to see it at all...  And dammit, he still couldn’t do anything about it.

He realized he was standing there with a cup full of ice chips that he didn’t remember filling.  He shrugged and started to head out only to literally bump into Daniel.

Daniel jumped back.  “Hey, okay! I was calling you from...”  He looked back over his shoulder to indicate the door.  “Is everything okay?”  His brow was slightly furrowed with worry.  “Who’s with Sam?”

Snapping out of his personal reverie and back into team lead of SG-1, he grinned at Daniel.  “She’s awake!  Fraiser’s giving her the once-over now.”  

Daniel nearly sagged in relief.  Then his face took on the excited, little boy on Christmas morning look usually reserved for dusty temples and half-hidden writing.  “She’s awake?  God, that’s...  Is she okay?”  He was talking so fast, his words were rolling over each other.

Jack took a deep breath.  “She seems to be good, physically.  She recognized me, talked a little bit. I’m just here getting her the standard post-op ice chips.”  He looked down at the cup in his hand.  “I’d better get these back before they melt. Can you let everyone know?”  

Before he had even finished the question, Daniel clapped him on the shoulder and went streaking out of the commissary.  Jack nodded to himself.  “Guess so.”


~SG1~


Despite the general’s protestations, Janet refused to allow any debriefing until Sam had been awake and stable for 24 hours.  She really wanted to give her patient even more time, but recognized the need to determine any threat possibly resulting from her captivity.  

“Doctor, I need to at least know if she said anything to him,” the general was arguing in a hushed voice in Janet’s office off the infirmary ward.  

Jack was leaning against the wall near the door where he could keep one eye on the conversation inside the room and the other on Carter, restlessly ‘sleeping’ in the other room.  “I’m pretty sure she didn’t say anything, Sir.”

“Jack, I know how much faith you have in your people.  Hell, how much faith I have in them.  But she’s been gone for over a month and subjected to god knows what.  It is not inconceivable that she may have broken.”

“No, Sir.”  Jack’s firm response surprised both Janet and the general.  The doctor sat quietly at her desk, willing to let O’Neill step in to this fight for a little while.  It felt like she and the general had been 12 rounds already.  She knew that the colonel would protect Sam and actually may be able to get the general to back off for a few hours.

“And may I ask what you are basing this on, Colonel?”

“She would have told me.”

“Jack, she’s been in and out of consciousness.  There wasn’t a lot of time for her to tell you anything.”

Jack shook his head.  “It would have been the first thing out of her mouth, Sir.  I know her and I trust her.  She would never let this base be endangered when she could do something to prevent it.”

Hammond sighed.  The last thing he wanted to do was to make things worse for his officer.  “You’re willing to risk this planet based on how well you can read her?”

Jack pondered for a minute.  “Yes, Sir.”

“All right,” the general agreed.  “We’ll be back tomorrow, Doctor.”

Janet shooed everyone out of the room, checked on Sam one last time for the night and headed off to get an hour of sleep herself.


~SG1~


Exactly 24 hours after she had first roused, Hammond and O’Neill came to the infirmary.  Janet met them at the door, a stern look on her face.

“You can talk to her, but please try to keep it brief.  If you agree, I’d like to sit in with you to monitor her condition.  She is still very weak and I don’t know how she will react to, well, to discussing recent events.  Additionally, she is showing mood fluctuations and other physical signs of withdrawal.  It hasn’t been bad so far and she seems to be doing a good job keeping it under control, but just the same: be prepared.”

The three of them walked in to the infirmary.  Janet had moved Sam to one of the beds farthest from the door, attempting to give her some privacy.  Sam was very well-liked on base and Janet had noticed an increase over the last day in the number of duties that seemed to involve traveling the corridor outside the infirmary as people tried to reassure themselves that the major was actually back.

As they walked up, she was sitting on the bed, propped at an incline.   She was chewing on her bottom lip, intently studying her hands as they picked at the light blanket covering her lap.  Jack winced as he considered the hell she must be going through: dealing with her abduction, the withdrawal, post-op pain with no narcotics.  Giving himself a mental shove, he pushed aside the guilt he felt at the prospect of now making her start to verbalize her experience.  

Hammond was the first to speak.  “Major Carter, I cannot tell you how good it is to have you back here.”  

She forced herself to look up as they sat down.  “Thank you, General.  It’s good to be back.”  Aside from Jack, the Colonel, she corrected herself, returning for a brief visit after she woke yesterday, Janet had kept everyone out of the infirmary, which had suited Sam just fine.  She didn’t want people seeing her right now, seeing what she had become.  With Ugallu, she had long ago given up trying to suppress the screams, the tears, the moans and whimpers.  But here where they all thought she was strong, she could not, she would not give in.  So now she would put on her soldier face and say the things that were expected and then maybe they would leave her alone for just a little while and she wouldn’t have to fight to keep these feelings from bursting out at the seams.

The general smiled gently at her.  O’Neill nodded but was unable to force a smile.  Hammond continued, “We have just a few questions that we’d like you to answer today.  We’ll try to keep it brief.”

Sam just looked at them, waiting.  

“I guess we’ll get the hardest one out of the way first.  Did you reveal anything to Ugallu that may put this base or this planet in danger?”

Sam opened her mouth to reply but suddenly the words stuck in her throat.  ‘It is time you give us something,’ Ugallu’s voice echoed in her mind.  She squeezed her eyes shut, pressing a hand to her forehead.  

All three responded in alarm.

“Major?”
“Carter?”
“Sam?”

She could hear Janet getting up and coming to her side and waved her off.  Concentrating on deep breathing, she opened her eyes and looked at them.  “I’m sorry,” she said.  She wanted to explain this to them.  “Um, how long was I gone?”

O’Neill responded quickly, “34 days.”

She swallowed.  It was actually less time than she had thought.  “Okay.  Well, then I’ve spent the last month...” She trailed off, breathing heavily and then tried again.  “A month of trying not to answer anything he asked.”  She winced.  “I guess it is just a little difficult to change tactics this quickly.”

Hammond nodded.  “Take all the time you need, Major.”

She sat quietly for a minute, controlling her breathing and trying to relax.  “I didn’t tell him anything, Sir.  Not that I remember.”  She looked down at her hands.  “There are some blanks in my memory though.  But he never indicated that I gave him anything useful.”

“That’s commendable, Major.”

“Thank you, Sir.”  

Jack bit his tongue to stop himself from saying “Told you so.”  He knew his 2IC.

“Now, Major, Dr. Fraiser has seen some signs that you were in a sarcophagus.  Is that accurate?”

She chewed at the inside of her cheek as she nodded once.  

“Can you tell me how many times?”

She spoke slowly, not looking at any of them.  “Ummm, well, first time was dehydration and malnutrition, then blood loss, a ribbon device...”  She was ticking each thing off on a finger and it suddenly hit Jack that she was counting the ways she had died.  He clenched his jaw, concentrating on her fingers as she started on the second hand, rather than her words.

“... lastly, a combination of infection setting in to the burn wounds and dehydration.” She shrugged, “I guess the lack of food and water probably played a role in all of them.”  She looked down at her extended fingers and then back at the general.  “Maybe eight times?” she shrugged.

Janet interrupted.  “You said lack of food and water.  How much were you given while you were... gone?”

“None.”  She tried to inject as little emotion into the word as possible, but it still felt like she’d set a bomb off in the room.

Janet paled. O’Neill’s jaw was clenched so tight that it was a wonder he hadn’t broken a tooth.  Hammond had to take a moment before he could trust himself to speak.

“I think we can go ahead and stop now.  Major, if there’s anything you feel we need to know, please call me anytime day or night.  Other than that, I am more than happy to wait for your written report whenever you’re feeling up to it.”

“Of course, General,” Sam answered.

Hammond stood, O’Neill and Janet on their feet just after him.  “Thank you for your candor, Major.  I’ll let you get some rest now.”  He nodded to the other two and then retreated from the infirmary.  

Janet fussed around Sam’s bed, checking her vitals and generally reassuring herself.  Finally, she stepped back.  “Why don’t you try to get some sleep?  I’ll be in my office if you need anything.”

Sam just nodded as Janet walked away.

By this time, O’Neill had gotten his emotions under some level of control. He gave her a tight smile.  “I’ll let you get on with that sleeping thing.  You let me know if there’s anything you need.”  He patted her foot, looking kind of aimless.  

“Sir?” she ventured.

“Yeah?”

It was strange.  Earlier she had been so sure that she’d want everybody gone as quickly as possible, but now she wasn’t ready to be alone.  “Can you stay for a bit?”

His smile was a little less forced this time.  “Yeah, I can stay.”  He pulled his chair up closer to the head of the bed and settled into it.  “You wanna talk about anything?”

She was already laying her head on her pillow.  “Not really, Sir.  But maybe you could?”

He raised his eyebrows in question.  “Could... what, Carter?”

“Just talk. About anything.  Tell me about your cabin again.”

And he did.  He talked about the cabin and the lake and about the way the sunlight would sparkle on the water.  He told her about trees and the breezes and campfires at night.  And his voice surrounded her just as it had in her dreams and she slept.


~SG1~


SG-1 worked out a schedule where Sam wouldn’t be left alone in the infirmary.  The days that followed were hard.  While her physical recovery was proceeding as well as Janet could have hoped, the withdrawal coupled with the emotional trauma left Sam moody and unpredictable.

Three nights after her return, Daniel was sitting with her.  Trying to distract her, he had brought a chess board along and they were in the middle of a game.  She was having trouble concentrating on the game and Daniel found himself trying to scale back his play to give her a fighting chance.  He had just completed his move and looked up to see her expression darken.  

“You’re cheating,” she said brusquely.

“Nooo,” he responded slowly.  “That was a perfectly legal move, Sam.”

“No, you can’t...” She stopped, realizing she was uncertain of where the pieces had been before he made his move, but that did nothing to assuage the rage she felt building up.  She stared at Daniel, looking innocent and bewildered.  She looked at the pieces on the board waiting for someone to order them into place, attack and sacrifice, always pushing for victory.  

Her vision narrowed as the blood pounded in her ears, her muscles itched and shook with tension, and the rage kept building until she just needed to strike out.  She flung the chessboard off the table between them, pieces flying everywhere.  One struck Daniel in the face.  He yelped, putting his hand up immediately to his stinging cheek.  

Sam just looked at him, her eyes wide but cold and distant, refusing to allow herself to show weakness even as she felt her soul was crumbling apart.  She had hurt Daniel.  She wasn’t even sure what had happened.  Janet hurried over to see what the noise was about.  Daniel tried to wave her away.

“I’m all right,” he said quickly.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” she said as she firmly pulled his hand away from his face.  She eyed the small laceration critically.  “Sam, I’m going to take Daniel to my office and help him clean up.  You going to be okay here?”

She nodded sullenly, the rage had gone as quickly as it had erupted.  Now, embarrassment, fear, and self-recrimination battled each other for dominance.  Janet led Daniel into her office.  He protested the entire way.  “Janet, it’s nothing.  Just a scratch.”

She closed the door behind them and nodded for him to take a seat.  She picked up the phone on her desk and dialed what Daniel thought looked like Hammond’s extension.  “Sir, I’d like to request a couple of guards be posted outside the infirmary as we had discussed. ... Thank you, Sir.”

Daniel gaped.  “Guards?”  Janet winced at the betrayal in his voice.  

“It’s for everyone’s protection, Daniel, especially Sam.  I don’t want to put her in restraints, not after what she’s already gone through, but if she’s getting violent, it’s possible that it will escalate or that she could even turn it on herself.”  Daniel nodded unhappily, all too aware of the truth in that statement.  “So, I just want some extra hands around if she...” she trailed off, shrugging.

“In the meantime, maybe you’d be better off taking a break,” she continued.

“Nope.”

“Daniel, just until she calms down.  I don’t want you getting seriously hurt.”

“I’m not leaving, Janet.  If she doesn’t want to see me right now, I’ll wait in here or in the hallway, but if she changes her mind, I’ll be damned if I’m going to be more than 30 seconds away, unless Jack or Teal’c is here.”  He owed Sam that much.  The memories of his own withdrawal were kind of hazy, but he did remember arguing with her.  He couldn’t remember what about or what he said; the thing that stuck with him even all these years later was the look of shocked betrayal on her face.  They had never mentioned it; he had never asked her to relive whatever it was he had said.  But the fact that she had remained his friend after that meant that he would stay here and take whatever she dished out.

So, he walked back out to Sam’s bed, where she was listlessly turning a chess piece over and over through her fingers.  

“Hey,” he said.  

She looked at him, calmer, but still not trusting herself to speak.  

“So, maybe chess isn’t our game.”  That earned him a wry half-smile.  “Do you want me to leave?”

She shrugged one shoulder as if she didn’t really care.  But the look he read in her eyes was pleading.  

“Well, if you don’t mind too much, I thought maybe I’d stay for a bit more.”  He quickly picked up all the chess pieces and the board, putting them on the bed next to hers.  She handed him the last piece and then relaxed back into her pillow.  Daniel reunited the pawn with the rest of the set and turned back to find her watching him.  She slowly held out her hand.  He took it gently as he sat down, slowly stroking his thumb across her palm as she allowed herself to drift to sleep.